Afghanistan Secures First Local Taliban Cease-Fire

KABUL (RPRN) 7/27/2009–The Afghan government says the country has struck its first-ever local cease-fire deal with Taliban insurgents.The truce was reached in northwestern Badghis province in a bid to improve security ahead of next month’s presidential elections.

A spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the cease-fire was established Saturday. It was arranged after negotiations between local tribal elders and Taliban leaders.

Under the deal, the Taliban agreed to allow election candidates to set up offices in the province without being attacked.

The government hopes to make similar deals in other parts of the country.

The August 20 vote is a key test of U.S. and NATO-backed efforts to establish democracy in Afghanistan after decades of conflict. Mounting violence has raised fears that the voting will be marred by unrest.

On Sunday, Afghan officials say one of President Karzai’s vice presidential running mates escaped unharmed after Taliban insurgents ambushed his convoy.

The officials say Mohammad Qasim Fahim, a former warlord and defense minister, was traveling in northern Kunduz province when insurgents opened fire.

Taliban attacks have made July the deadliest month in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.